This week, all of the organisations involved in Carers Week – including Carers Trust, Carers UK, the MS Society, Age UK and others – went to Whitehall to launch the Carers Week quest. The aim this year is to really focus our minds – not just amongst carers charities, but across the NHS, local authorities and other charities. We need to work together locally as well as nationally because although we know there are around 7 million carers in the UK, the vast majority do not get anything like enough support. Continue reading
Note: We asked Carers Week Manager, Helen Clarke to share with us thoughts on her experience of Carers Week 2012. Following is a blog post contributed by her.
This year was my first Carers Week (www.carersweek.org). Carers Week is an annual UK-wide awareness campaign run by a partnership of charities including Carers Trust. I joined the campaign in late February and got stuck in from day one. Plenty had already got in motion, we had seven of our eight charity partners on board and Sainsbury’s and Skills for Care had agreed to sponsor the campaign. The theme In Sickness and in Health had been decided on and I discovered on day one that I would be writing up the findings for the report to launch the campaign – what a great induction to the issues affecting the UK’s 6.4 million carers.
Well, the next three months whizzed by. I travelled around the partner offices to introduce myself and learn about their work. In March I signed off on the Carers Week promotional materials and met with Sainsbury’s Diversity Champions to launch the new initiative for Carers Week which went on to see over 500 of their stores registering and working with hundreds of local groups raising awareness among their staff and customers.
Before I knew it launch day was looming. Having worked on another awareness campaign there is always that worry that there will be another news story that pipped you to the post and got the lion’s share of the coverage. The groundwork was all there, Bex (the Carers Week Media Officer) had dozens of fantastic carers willing to share their story, a report with some shocking findings and clear calls to action for government. We weren’t to be disappointed. Carers Week and the impact that caring has on the health and well-being of carers was right across the media, from the Today programme on Radio Four to Dr Hillary Jones visiting a carer’s home on ITV’s Daybreak. News items and interviews were taking place right across the UK and not just about our news story but also the fantastic events that all the local groups had been organising. Not to mention trending on Twitter (at number two for most of the morning of Monday 18 June, and briefly number one).
Carers Week is a well supported campaign which has many opportunities to improve the lives of carers. With over 1,900 organisations registering to take part and thousands of events taking place across the UK it goes a long way to raise awareness of carers and the services and support available to them. It also highlights what needs to change to improve carers’ lives – to inform politicians we took carers to Westminster and set up a speednetworking event which saw nearly 30 MPs meeting with carers working with Carers Week eight charity partners. All the MPs including Care Minister Paul Burstow MP left with action points and a clearer view of how tough carers find their caring role and what could be done to improve their lives. The following day we were in the House of Lords with over 20 Peers, more MPs and Fiona Phillips. We will continue to follow activity and announcements from government to see what difference Carers’ Week and ongoing activity can make to carers’ lives.
With every project no matter how large or small comes the evaluation. This is taking place now and it is fascinating hearing how local groups and organisations have participated in the campaign and the creative and imaginative events and activity that took place. It is also fabulous seeing the photos of all the great events and people taking part. If you want to feed back how Carers Week was for you and your organisation please complete our online survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CW2012Feedback.
Here’s to an even more fabulous Carers Week in 2013 (Monday 10 to Sunday 16 June).
Note: This post is written by Claire Thwaite, Carer and volunteer at The Carers’ Resource in Skipton, where she helps to educate people about the importance of carers and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. She offers others support and information that she did not have when she first became a carer. Claire attended the Carers Week Speednetworking Event in Parliament.
My journey to London started out in familiar way – a mad scramble to get both myself and my cared for washed,
dressed and ready to leave.
The result? I missed my intended train and fretted the rest of the way about missing my connection. As my cared for pointed out when I got irate “that’s exactly what you are going to London to talk about” – Doh!
Fortunately, I arrived in time and Emma (Senior Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Carers Trust), James (Trustee from Action for Carers, Surrey) and I fought our way through the crowds and queued up to pass through security at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.
Scanned, tagged and deemed no threat to security, we made our way into Westminster Hall with enough time for a brief tour. From that moment on I feared I would be struck dumb by the sheer awesomeness of this beautiful building – what triumph, tragedy and torment those walls could tell of.
Onward to the Jubilee Room and the initial hubbub began when the Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow MP entered the room and everyone vied to obtain a few precious seconds of his time and maybe get a picture.
On to the real aim of the day – MPs began filtering through and I started to feel a little nervous. Fortunately, my first conversation was with Robert Buckland MP who was extremely friendly. He showed a keen interest in hearing about my experience caring for my mentally ill partner and my views on how the government needed to do more to get help for carers from the outset.
My next conversation with Conservative MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage was equally positive – I shared my experience of the downfalls of the recent changes to benefits, which have left me faced with having to give up my own job to support my partner back into work.
The following tete-a-tete, with an MP who SHOULD remain nameless, was brief as he sat down declaring himself “unable to learn anything today as I have been here for 30 years”. So, I saved my breath for those who had a genuine interest – and there were many, most of whom had their own experiences of caring or mental illness.
During a most interesting discussion with Barbara Keeley MP about a new Private Members Bill on social care that she is taking forward in a few weeks time, my local MP, Andrew Stephenson arrived. He was charming and shared some of his own thoughts about mental health and how Parliament is engaging with the issue.
After that, came Mark Durkam MP from Northern Ireland, with whom James and I discussed again the lack of initial support available to carers and also employment law and issues with employers understanding carers. After he bade us farewell, we realised it was 6.15 and the event had finished 15 minutes ago.
The journey home was uneventful by comparison. My only regret? It didn’t go on long enough ……. Oh, and I should have worn more comfortable shoes.
Carers Week 2011 will be the largest awareness raising week in the UK and it begins on Monday 13th June. Over 1500 organisations including Carers’ Centres and Crossroads Care schemes, other charities, local councils, GP surgeries, hospitals and private sector companies will be holding events throughout the week.
My week begins with an event with MPs and carers on Monday, which will be something akin to speed dating. Numerous carers will be sat at various tables and MPs will come in and speak to each one, moving around the tables giving them a chance to hear and discuss what it’s like to be a carer.
The aim is to show MPs the range of people that caring can affect and the different issues involved. So there will be young carers there, older carers, carers who combine work and care, people who care for people who have mental health problems, or learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. I’ll blog on Monday night to let you know how it goes.
On Wednesday, Sheila Gilmore MP is holding a debate in Parliament on carers and the effects of spending cuts on them and there will also be a reception for carers at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP. We will have a guest blogger reporting back on that one.
Fast forwarding to Sunday 19th June, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers will be featured on the BBC Lifeline Appeal on BBC One at 4.55pm. Do tune in and tell friends and family about it – we hope it will raise the profile of carers and also where carers can get help.
You can find out what events are happening in your local area at the Carers Week website and do post comments letting us know if you are involved in holding events for Carers Week. If you are, good luck!
PS: Carers need continued support. Don’t forget to tune-in to BBC Lifeline’s appeal for carers on BBC One on June 19th at 4:45 pm (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 5:15 (if in Scotland). Please do spread the word.
It’s the waiting that’s the worst. So say civil servants, local authorities and the NHS as they wait to find out exactly what the Government plans are. Carers are maybe more used to waiting.
They wait months for a hoist that will help lift a disabled husband out of bed. They wait for information and basic training to care for a daughter dying of cancer. They wait for a break from caring 24/7 for elderly parents who live with them.
Words are spoken and strategies published but for too many, the waiting continues.
I don’t think anybody should underestimate the scale of what new Government ministers have to learn and comprehend in a very short space of time. There are also lots of competing priorities to order but next week is Carers Week and it is time for carers to wait no longer.
I met Paul Burstow MP (new Minister for social care) on Monday. He told me that they made a firm pledge to increase access to respite care and they would deliver on it. Carers now need to know how this will be achieved and when.
I also met the new Labour shadow Minister for social care – Barbara Keeley MP. She has consistently campaigned for carers locally and in Parliament and worked on carers’ issues before entering Parliament. I also met her fellow shadow Minister for Health, Diana Johnson MP who has supported local carers and carers’ organisations.
The appointments of Burstow and Keeley are positive but this will not mean that all the policy changes carers need will happen instantly – or at all. But, I do believe we have two people who regularly meet, listen to and understand carers. The election is passed, new ministers are appointed and the waiting must end – it’s time for change.
One thing that Carers Week does achieve is huge media interest which can result in people like me being pitched into radio interviews. So yesterday I was trying to refine my Scottish accent so that the listeners of Radio Cornwall could understand me. Although I’m not sure how many there are in the first place.
It seemed to go well i.e. I didn’t swear, enter a coughing fit, sneeze or lose the ability of speech. The interviewer had done a bit of homework and asked whether there was a gap between what carers needed and what the Government was doing. I knew the answer to that one!
He was genuinely astounded by the number of carers there are and brought up an interesting point for listeners advising them that even if they are not currently a carer, it was likely that would be at some point, so they had better get involved in the debate too. Three cheers for Radio Cornwall I say.
From that interview I ran off to Parliament with Anne Roberts, Chief Exec of Crossroads, for a reception with about 40 MPs and carers in support of Carers Week. Whilst running along, Anne gave me the lowdown on the two finalists of The Apprentice who she met whilst doing an interview for GMTV.
The security checks made us miss the speeches by the two carers. However, I know Janice from our Surrey carers’ centre so she kindly gave me her speech. The last paragraph is especially moving and worth repeating.
“As well as people with unique insight into the circumstances of our loved ones, we are also people with responsibilities and lives outside of caring. I want this to be recognised, respected and supported.”
Jonathan Shaw MP, Minister for Disabled People (who has the brief for carers’ benefits in the Dept of Work and Pensions), was there so let’s hope he was listening. He also got his ear bent about how Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were not providing breaks for carers as was announced they would do in the Carers Strategy last year.
Anne McGuire MP, who hosted the reception and knows what it is like to be a carer, asked for more information about this. The problem is that although PCTs have been given money, it is not ring-fenced, so some PCTs are using it to provide breaks for carers but the majority are not.
I’ll talk more about the problems with PCT and breaks for carers in a later blog but for now I would like to take my hat off to Janice from Surrey and the DJ from Cornwall who have shown wise words don’t have to come from MPs or finalists of TV programmes.